Kristy Thirsk – Souvenir

Kristy Thirsk

Kristy Thirsk has a long career in the music sphere, starting out with the band Rose Chronicles in Canada, where she vocally soared and rocked out, and then collaborating with artists like Delerium on several songs (“Flowers Become Screens”, “Heaven’s Earth”, and “Enchanted”) and Justin Elswick’s Sleepthief. The trajectory of her musical projects has her going from the rawer, indie sound of Rose Chronicles to a smoother style of an electronica songstress.

Now Kristy presents herself as a solo artist and offers up her debut album, Souvenir on import. While her voice is still as clear and strong as ever, and the relationship-based lyrics prove insightful, some of her songs lack the allure or punch of an electronica or indie-rock song, respectively. Most of these songs have a “coffeehouse” feel – a showcase for a girl and her guitar (albeit with a fuller sound), and although there’s nothing wrong with that, there is an overload of this style at the moment.

The main hook of this album is Kristy’s voice. She has a sharp edge to her vocals, kind of like Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins, with a duality to her delivery – a lighter, angelic, stratospheric tone verses her harsher, keening, earthier voice.

The first two songs, “Indifference” and “Imagination”, have Kristy sounding like Tori Amos, a lyrics-oriented singer-songwriter with captivating vocals, but song structures that don’t let her vocals breathe enough and fly away.

The country-tinged “At The Border” plays it tame and safe, with hushed verses and clear, aching vocals on the chorus. The angelic notes are hit sparsely and only in the background of the chorus. Once again, on “Home For Angels”, Kristy shows that she has the vocal chops, but the slow, measured pace of the song lets her down.

“Run Away” was the ‘single’ off the album, and it’s guitar-based and melancholy, but sweet, with Kristy’s aching vocals on the verse and a burst of higher tones on the chorus amid faster-strummed guitars. On the second verse, there is great use of her high vocals, where she sings in two different registers (and sounds like two different singers), and the twinning of the vocals on the chorus section is beguiling.

“Hollywood” is more mellow and spare, with a slow beat, guitar strum, and strings that come and go, as Kristy weaves her vocals sadly, but smoothly against the meandering guitar line. She ends up pushing her vocals to the point of sounding a little rough on the chorus and it’s a welcome change from the easy vocal flow of the previous songs. The lyrics of this song stand out, especially “Let’s pretend our children are perfect and happy…”

On the next song, “If Only”, the “singer-songwriter” tag applies, with Kirsty sounding like she could be a VH-1 songstress, but with more vocal range and emotion than what’s usually presented in that style. The song opens with laid-back guitar strum and beat, and high, angelic, wordless vocal calls. The verse then switches to plain vocals as she sings about no more war and no more bombs and wishing “If only this life never ends…”

“Second Fiddle” is a mid-tempo song with a steady beat, guitar line, and loop of Kristy’s high, sweet vocals singing “doo-doo” (yes, it sounds much better than it looks!) at the start. The plain vocals of the verse sound like Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins, with the vocals warbling up and down and being accented by a second vocal line that’s higher in tone. Kristy gets a bit sneering and Sinead O’Connor-like at the ends of the verse phrases (on words like “higher” and “liar”). The lyrics are emphasized with a pushing vocal delivery and made pretty by the ephemeral, floating high vocals of the chorus and – a Kristy Thirsk speciality – the high register, wordless call two thirds of the way through the song.

“Hypnotized” is another mid-tempo song (Kristy needs to break free of this type of song) with country-type guitar and crying, plaintive vocals on the verses, and sweet, doubled vocals on chorus parts.

“Take You On” begins with Kristy’s highest siren-call yet, augmented with faster paced drums and guitar. Then her plain, more hushed vocals come in, with doubled vocal touches in a more melancholy tone. The lyrics-heavy song is about a bad relationship as evidenced by the following lines: “How many times…how many crimes can be hidden by your lies?” and “How many times can a heart break before it can’t be fixed again?”. Mellow guitar strum and plain verses that get stronger as “In The Dream” progresses make this song keeningly heartfelt.

Kristy finally stretches out musically with “Whitelight”, a different type of song style than everything else on this album, with Middle Eastern-tinged instruments and sinuous vocal calling loop, all breathy and wordless vocals, and almost Collide-like with the rich, sumptuous sound and Kristy’s lower-key, seductive vocals. “Whitelight” is definitely a highlight of the album, with the higher-flying, sometimes doubled vocals on the chorus and sonic variation.

“Souvenir” closes (aside from the bonus track) the album in a contemplative bent, with slow guitar strum and a distant The Church-like guitar line. Kristy’s plaintive, bittersweet vocals are aching and drawn out, especially on the verses as she sings “She’s…just…a souvenir, you’ll never stay here.”. This is another lyrics-oriented song, with just backing guitars, and eventually melancholy, low-toned strings that echo Kristy’s distress. Her high-sky vocals on the chorus come on like a cry, backed by sawing cellos and finally guitar strum.

The bonus track “Over It” is a mid-tempo rocker for a change, with a steady beat, country-type guitars, and fuzzy, grumbling guitars. Kristy’s vocals are upbeat for once, strong and more coy, as she says “I was never lost…I never felt so alive” and “I’m alive and more wise – and know that I got over it”. She is vindicated and triumphant over the past – whether it’s weathering the break up of Rose Chronicles or talking about past relationships in general, she says, “I’m better off alone”.